Author: Carl Hiaasen
Publisher: Listening Library, 2012 (print available from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Narrator: James Van Der Beek
Wahoo Cray lives in the Everglades on what most people would call a zoo. His dad, Mickey Cray, is an animal wrangler, and takes care of animals like raccoons, snakes, and gators, including the enormous Alice. It is Alice that gets the attention of the survival reality TV show, Expedition Survival! They want to do an Everglades episode, and Wahoo takes the job on behalf of his dad. They need the money since Mickey got knocked in the head by a frozen iguana and started getting debilitating migraines and double vision as a result. And so they put up with Derek Badger, the show's idiotic, spoiled, and phony host. But things start to get out of hand when Derek insists on doing the show in the actual wild. Wahoo and Mickey meet and bring along Tuna, a girl with an abusive father who really wants to find her, and Derek ends up bitten by a bat and runs off into the Everglades on his own. It will be a miracle if they all get out of this alive.
I haven't read much of Hiaasen's work, just Hoot, but I already have an idea of the flavor of his writing. I'm guessing his adult novels are similar, with more mature subject matter and probably less animals. What I love about Hiaasen's writing is the fullness and roundness of all of his characters. He gives almost every character who enters into the story a background and a reason why they are the way they appear in the novel. Mickey is probably my favorite character out of them all—sure, he's Wahoo's dad, but he is such a part of the novel in a way that you don't necessarily expect adults to be in literature for children. Wahoo often has to watch after his father because he tends to let his mouth run when he sees something he doesn't like, but Mickey is also a very smart man with a strong desire to protect those who need it.
The story itself is something of a survival story, though not in the way the characters expected. With his signature humor, Hiaasen takes Wahoo, Tuna, and Mickey, as well as all of the other characters they meet along the way, on a thrilling and dangerous adventure full of tension and suspense.
James Van Der Beek does the narration, and he does a great job. It wasn't the very best narration I've ever heard, but it is certainly a job well done and very enjoyable. I appreciated how he didn't really give Tuna a high voice that sounded fake, and he did the accents pretty well. He really did a great job giving the different characters different sounding voices, especially one character named Link. There were just a few spots where I wish there were more pauses, but I think that had more to do with production and editing than with Van Der Beek's performance. Also, Dawson read me a story.
All in all, a very enjoyable audiobook experience with great characters and action. I'll be picking up another of Hiaasen's audiobooks for younger readers soon.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from my local library.